James Lofton has made a career changing average wide receivers into good ones. Last year a gift came to the Raiders in the form of Lofton—a way to help our young receivers develop into good wideouts. As we saw in 2007, our receiving corps was definitely a work in progress.
The way I look at it, Lofton's job is to help receivers reach the next level of their potential. When he came into the season, his starters were Javon Walker and Ronald Curry, and his job was to develop Drew Carter, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Todd Watkins, and Chaz Schilens into potential starters if Javon or Curry didn't work out.
Carter came in and hit it off with Lofton, who seemed to be making Carter a better wideout from reports. But before the Raider Nation got the chance to see the new Drew Carter, he got injured during preseason.
Curry and Javon didn't seem to work out and in training camp received hard heat from both Lofton and Lane Kiffin for looking old and poor play. At the beginning of the year you realized the heat was well placed because Javon and Curry didn't only look lost on the field, but also couldn't catch a ball with elephant jizz on their hands.
After we started to bring in our young guys, we saw progress. The second big game from a receiver, not including our best player Zach Miller "time" and Javon against the Jets, came from Chaz Schilens. Schilens had three catches for 76 yards, and I was beginning to believe we would have a receiver who could catch.
Then Schilens got hurt and we turned back to the veterans, and they had a good game or two from Curry and Lelie.
But then we started to look old and flat again. Finally with two games left, Lofton's season-long work was able to make JaMarcus Russell look like the player he is. With the release of our young players, Higgins and Schilens came in, and every Raider fan thought oh crap, can we look worse with young guys just learning their routes instead of old guys who can't catch?
But both Higgins and Schilens played the next two games as good receivers and finally brought hope to this Raider fan about the Raiders receiving corps, which hasn't been there since all the talk of the Moss and Porter combo. How many Raider fans remember Higgins in 2007? He looked like the worst third rounder since Maurice Clarett.
He couldn't catch as a receiver or as a returner, and when he did catch he fumbled. I would be lying if I said I believed in Higgins in the beginning of the year. But I thought tons of people have had tough times as a rookie and looked good their second season.
However, Higgins didn't start his turnaround too well. Against the Titans he fumbled on the two-yard line on a punt, and I died a little inside because that is where I saw the Raiders season going.
But with Lofton changing around Higgins and helping Schilens hone his abilities as a rookie, I thought Lofton did more than expected, and that firing him was a mistake the Raiders will regret. Lofton knows how to teach young talent, and with the Raiders drafting a wideout within the first three rounds, I believe letting Lofton go was a MISTAKE.
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